on April 9, 2011 :
John McDonnell's 13 Horror Stories delight in a perfectly creepy way. Each one is short – think flash fiction size – and deceptively simple with their build-up leading to a surprise ending. Some of the stories made me chuckle, some made me cringe, but all last with the reader. These thirteen stories are wonderful to tell around the campfire or with a flashlight when the power is out. "Heart Stopping Beauty" and "Tick Tock" have a philosophical power to them. "The Box" was my personal favorite. 13 Horror Stories reminds me of the ones scary ones I still remember when I was a child. Readers who like twisted thrills of horror, then they will enjoy Mr. McDonnell's 13 Horror Stories.
(reviewed 26 days after purchase)
on April 7, 2011 :
Flash fiction is known by different names, sudden fiction, microfiction, micro-story, postcard fiction, but whatever name strikes your fancy John McDonnell’s 13 Horror Stories puts him in a category with masters of this genre.
Join the Beauty Queen, Billy and Uncle Hank, Nekhbet, Annabelle Lockard feel the fear…it’s so much stronger when the important fiction elements are only hinted at or implied.
“You wanted to feel fear, right?…Yes, I heard it’s the strongest emotion…”
(reviewed 21 days after purchase)
on March 21, 2011 :
Review for 13 Horror Stories by John McDonnell
Recalling some of the classic horror and sci-fi stories of the 50s and 60s 13 Horror Stories is a nicely put together batch of short horror tales. Each of them has its own style and unique twist ending for the reader. Removed from the violent hack and slash of modern horror these tales are just the thing for those fond of more subtle horror. Here you’ll find jealousy, betrayal and revenge as much as you’ll find horror.
My own personal favorites were the stories “The Smell of Love” (a tale about late in life love and the mother that stands to lose a lot by its fruition) and “The Returning” (a ghost story about a jealous and tortured wife and the aftereffects of her last tragic night). These stories reminded me of those often found in the horror comic House of Secrets made up of an air of the surreal and darker aspects of human interaction.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on Feb. 10, 2011 :
With each tale ranging between 400 and 600 words, McDonnell touches on all the classic facets of horror just a little too briefly. I would classify "13 Horror Stories" as a collection of flash fiction rather than short stories.
Several of the stories had a very interesting premise that I honestly would have liked to have read more of. But each time the story cuts out before the tension is really built.
A good example would be "Don't you just love weddings." It's a conversation that's maybe 100 words long that hints at the promise of a mutant bride. But that's it. I would have loved to have had more on that topic. The author could have easily written 5,000 on that storyline alone. I thoroughly enjoy endings that dangle. But I have to at least have time to get to know the characters on some level.
To sum up: this collection is not a bad start for the author and actually not a bad read. The writing is rough around the edges but solid. The ideas are there; just take it a step further.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
P. Jonas Bekker
on Oct. 14, 2010 :
A horror story is like a firecracker. When you start reading, you light the fuse and the suspense builds as the fuse smolders closer and closer to the explosive charge. Then, in the last paragraph or so, the story goes “bang”. At least, that's how John McDonnell does it in this book. The thirteen stories in this collection are short or very short, with “Don't You Just Love Weddings?” taking the cake with a mere fourteen lines (on my e-reader, that is).
All the necessary ingredients are here. In any other genre, they would probably be called cliches, but in horror, they are perfectly acceptable story building blocks. I mean, how can a horror reader ever get enough of zombie beauty queens, implanted transmitters, dark basements, chopped-off fingers in salads and ghosts in blood-stained dresses?
Stylistically, McDonnell keeps it straightforward. A little too straightforward for my taste: “You can feel it's presence. Like cold, clammy feeling; it makes your skin crawl. You know something's watching you, just waiting to pounce.” (from: The Thing in the Basement) I know, horror is all about delivering the payload and less about the belletrie, but I like my language a little more original - more literary if you will - than that.
Still, when the payload gets delivered, it will make you smile every time.
My favorite story is “Heart-Stopping Beauty”, about a man who, engulfed in the pleasures of a new love affair, has forgotten to get his watch battery replaced. For some reason, it is very important that his watch doesn't stop. His anxiety, and that of the reader, builds as he wanders through a deserted town, looking for a jeweler that's open. Ssssssst... BANG.
(reviewed 10 days after purchase)